. How to Negotiate A/V | Successful Meetings

How to Negotiate A/V

Six questions to ask before deciding to stay in-house or hire an outside vendor

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Sometimes it's what you don't see that can sink your ship.

Planning and executing successful meetings for your organization can be an undertaking of "titanic" proportion. For every decision you make to shape the meeting, there will be issues that lurk beneath the surface. These hidden hazards can easily put a big hole in your budget.

As the buyer of services from a venue, you have lots of leverage to negotiate the best terms for your event. You must consider everything before you make a venue selection and especially before you sign any contract with the hotel or convention center - particularly when it comes to technical support for your event.

Upon your first venue visit, you may have the chance to meet the in-house or preferred A/V supplier, and its technical team. If so, they will offer information about the technical services provided at the property. There are some things to consider before you decide to go in-house, or take your business to an outside vendor.

These technical services fall into two categories: venue-exclusive services and venue-optional services. When reviewing, it is important to understand which services fall into each category and if they are negotiable.

Traditionally, venue-exclusive services include: power connection; rigging points and rigging labor; house patch for house systems; Internet; and phone connection. Venue-optional services are supposed to include everything else. However, venues are looking for ways to secure added revenue by including the optional services into the venue-exclusive category. These services can run the gamut from the required venue provision of truss and motors, to the venue provision of all A/V gear and labor for breakout rooms. There are even hotels which require the client to cover the payroll of all the technical labor through the in-house A/V company.

Since there is typically a financial arrangement between the in-house vendor and the venue, those costs can be much higher to account for commissions from the in-house vendor to the venue. These costs can add as much as an extra 30-50 percent to your existing technical budget.

Recently, a client was given a proposal by a venue's in-house A/V provider for exclusive rigging services. This proposal would have added $38,000 in rigging costs to their budget.

Many planners find out the hard way that there are exclusive service commitments and costs hidden beneath the surface after they signed a venue contract. These hidden agreements are in the contract under innocuous language that binds you to abide by hotel policies and procedures, which are often published in a separate document. Very often, the venue proposal will not include specific language addressing these services. Therefore, it is in your best interest to determine which exclusive costs you have to accept and then negotiate out the rest.

So, before you even reach the proposal or contract stage, it is important that you take steps to preserve your options and maximize your buying power. You can accomplish this by asking some pointed questions about the technical services you need. It can be beneficial to consult with an outside technical specialist to determine the general technical needs for your planned event. These specialists can visit the venue with you or review the venues before your visit. This insight will give you the knowledge to make an informed decision.

Assuming that all of the venues are appropriate for your event plans, here is a list of six questions to ask:

1. Do you have an in-house production department?

2. Are they hotel employees or a contracted service provider?

3. What services do they provide that are exclusive?

4. What services do they provide that are optional?

5. What are the rules and regulations that apply to outside production or A/V firms? Is the venue a union property?

6. Additionally, to address a trend that has evolved in some regions of the country: Does the hotel restrict you (or your outside production company) in any way from providing your own freelance and/or
union labor?

There are definite pros and cons on both sides of the question of whether in-house or independent technical production support providers would be the best fit for your event. These six questions, combined with your knowledge of your event's requirements, can help you find the answer.

Kim Davis is national account manager at LSAV, an A/V solutions provider with facilities in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. Visit LSAV for more information, or to get an objective and complimentary evaluation of your events' technical needs and circumstances.